Bloc Projects, Gripple and the UTC

UTC line up Rev.jpg

This week has been a packed one for the Future Works team and studio. Our week began with the Future Works studio setting up at Bloc Projects to share their work, engage people in conversation about their plans, and invite guests who may be able to contribute to their decision-making. After a week of reviews, this required drawing on energy reserves to curate an exhibition that would be appropriate to the city centre gallery location.

Tuesday saw us off to Gripple for our ‘Future-Fit’ workshop, looking at their Riverside site, which has just received planning permission to start on site this Summer. Special Projects manager Gordon Macrae framed the challenge with an introduction to the site, project and their hopes for the future. The M.Arch students worked with plans and sections to draw on their own research and concerns propose both pragmatic and blue-sky approaches to creating a more sustainable factory. Ideas developed during the workshop included reclaiming the 2GW of excess heat produced by the neighbouring Forgemasters for shared use, Rain Gardens, rainwater harvesting and outdoor acoustic buffers to improve the external landscape, ground water heat pumps, and intelligent facades to moderate the environment.

In the second half of the workshop the Gripple Automotive Team, who offered to give the students feedback on their Complex Material Assembly submission, joined us. The Future Works studio presented incredibly wide ranging projects, including strategies for citywide energy sharing, waterwheels that you can walk into to reconnect you with energy and landscape, energy generation through photosynthesis, and parametric brick laying robots! The feedback from the Gripple team introduced new techniques and approaches drawn from their experience of designing and manufacturing tools and machines, and raised opportunities and concerns specific to the factory context.

We then returned to Bloc for the public launch of the Studio exhibition, with guests including the creative director of Bloc, Charlotte Morgan, artist Tom Beesley, both of whom are working with the Stories of Change team.

On Wednesday the Future Works team hosted UTC teacher Amy Hirst and her engineering students, to take part in the development of scenarios for the region, and a low key version of the cloud question photobooth. Questions posed by our UTC visitors included: “How do we keep up with the growing demand for energy?”, “How can we use the energy we have more efficiently?”, “Will we switch to cleaner energy before its too late?”. Once warmed up and in the energy mood, we quipped ourselves with marker pens and took a seat around the map table… our shared scenario began with personal stories, including students who lived at Catcliffe, the current site of the AMRC and former site of the Battle of Orgreave… students whose family had already adopted electric cars, and recollections of sites of former pits in their streets or villages. We then began to think about the future- through drawing on news stories and research of the students, and by taking roles and responding to events we had discovered in the Stories of Change project to date. Over the break students took part in the Future Works studio invitation to consider how energy can be measured… A stimulating and wide-ranging discussion we look forward to returning to the UTC to review the session with the students.

Thursday morning brought more of the public in to the gallery, who shared their thoughts. The afternoon was time for in-residence tutorials for studio Future Works and Masters in Urban Design students who have chosen to align their thesis topics with the Stories of Change Research Project. Held around our shared table, each discussion brought new perspectives and challenges, both for the students and for me as a researcher on the project. All together a fascinating week; many thanks to everyone who took part and shared their ideas and time.

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